''I hope we can take another step forward''
Dani Pedrosa guided his Repsol Honda RC212V to third place in a tightly-fought Malaysian Grand Prix held in sweltering conditions at Sepang on Sunday.
Starting from his third pole position in as many races Pedrosa was second
into the first corner behind Casey Stoner and immediately began to apply relentless pressure to the Australian.
Lap after lap Pedrosa was quicker on the approach to the final hairpin corner, often coming alongside Stoner but never quite being able to pull off the pass. On lap nine Marco Melandri on the Gresini Honda was able to pass Pedrosa and with temperatures reaching 32 degrees and the track temperature hitting 40 degrees, Pedrosa was expecting the heat to take its toll on the performance of his tyres as the race progressed. But his Michelins were equal to the job, allowing the 22-year-old Spaniard to set his fastest time on lap 17 and cross the line right behind Melandri and just 2.326s behind race-winner Stoner.
It was Pedrosa's seventh podium finish of the season and closes the gap to Valentino Rossi in second place in the world championship to 24 points with one race remaining.
Nicky Hayden had an eventful race. The 2006 World Champion made a sluggish start from sixth on the grid and slipped to eleventh on the first lap before staging a spirited comeback. Hayden had front-running pace today but while passing Toni Elias on the Gresini Honda for sixth place, Hayden ran off track and dropped back to tenth.
The 26- year-old American refused to give up and held the fastest lap of the race for a time as he caught and passed Colin Edwards, bringing his RC212V home in ninth.
The MotoGP paddock now jets back to Europe and the scene of Hayden's dramatic 2006 World Championship victory. The Valencia circuit in Spain hosts the final round of the season in two week's time on November 4, and the Repsol Honda Team will once again be going all out for victory.
“I pushed very hard at the beginning because from what we'd seen in practice I was expecting the grip level from the tyres to fall away towards the end of the race. My plan was to make a gap if possible and handle the grip situation as well as I could. For the first few laps I was quite consistent behind Casey but when I started to brake later with a full tank of fuel I was losing the front end, so I dropped back a little and that's when Marco passed me. At that stage I was trying to maintain my rhythm and, as the race went on and the fuel load came down, I began to get a better feeling at the front of the machine under braking. I was really surprised about the high pace in the final part of the race because we didn't expect to maintain these lap times based on what we'd seen in practice. So I must say thank you to Michelin because we were able to get on the podium today thanks to the consistency of the tyre performance. Now I'm looking forward to Valencia because it's a home race and I'd like to get good result for the fans. I hope we can take another step forward and get even closer to taking the win.”
“The team did a really good job this weekend and the bike was working very well in the race. Unfortunately I didn't get a great start and on the first lap or two I got boxed in everywhere and I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That cost me a lot of positions but once things settled down I started moving forward and was going well. Then, passing Elias at the end of the back straight, I got in too hot and it was a silly mistake which I'm not happy about. I was in the draft and just got into the corner a little too fast. After that I got back on the track, put my head down and I'm actually proud of the way we recovered and started setting some really quick laps. First I caught Colin and lost a little time getting by him. Then I was able to catch Hopkins and Vermeulen on the last lap but we ran out of time to pass them. Still, I think I had the fastest lap of the race for a while which is encouraging considering how things were going earlier this weekend. Our speed and rhythm was way better than 9th place today and that's encouraging, but it was rider error that cost us a better result today. We've got one more chance to get the job done in Valencia in two weeks.”
“Dani rode at the absolute maximum today and I'd like to thank him for this. However, we couldn't quite close the performance gap to our rivals and so the end result is of course a little disappointing for us after another pole position. Nicky did not have the best start and was forced to attack very hard early on. Unfortunately he ran off track trying to pass Elias and lost many positions. Still, like Dani, his pace was also very good towards the end of the race and the potential of the package was higher than ninth today. We'll keep working for a good result at the final race of the season at Valencia.”